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Paging Deep Throat

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I received one of those stereotypical plain white envelopes recently, with some really intriguing information in it. If my anonymous correspondent is reading this, some names, dates and other information to accompany those allegations would be really useful.

And as you’re all wondering from that item whether you should check reception to see if Michael Moore is in your building and looking for you...

Enough intrigue, time for a new topic:

Is it just me, or did anyone else notice that Education Minister Nancy Allan very quietly released the public schools’ $75 million capital funding budget on the penultimate day of school?

These announcements usually come a few months earlier, and with fanfare. The minister would traditionally go to the school getting the good news about big bucks.

Of course, one could say that Allan is simply not being cynical about handing out money for political gain.

The top three announcements are all outside the city. Woodlands School, with 132 kids in K-8, gets a replacement school. Morris and Swan Valley get huge expansions of their shops.

Nary a syllable about the Kelvin High School gym, or the Queenston School gym — that’s 79 years without a gym, for those counting — or the requested new schools to replace all the crammed portables in NDP-friendly Seven Oaks School Division, or even a whisper about how many years it will be before there’s a new school built in the massive Sage Creek or Waverley West subdivisions.

Moving right along...

Speaking of nary a syllable, I’ve heard nothing from Sam or Judy about a campaign promise to have clean port-a-potties at all Winnipeg soccer fields.

Harumph.

Guess it’s time to start looking at the campaign platforms of some of the other mayoral candidates.

And in a seamless segue, but linking both the city and the schools...

I made my first-ever call to 311, inquiring about the city’s recreational volleyball program at Carpathia School this fall. I’ve been going for three eight-week sessions a year for several years now, and I was pretty disappointed when the city cancelled the spring session in May for insufficient registration.

Will you try a volleyball program at Carpathia again in September?, I asked.

"Wait for the leisure guide," said 311.

But can you tell me if Carpathia will be among the choices?, I asked.

"The leisure guide will be out in August," said 311.

Then I asked why, when the city called to say it was cancelled and my wife took the call, why the city said I’d be getting a refund, but didn’t offer me the possibility of signing up at another school. 311 didn’t know, didn’t take my name and number to find out and get back to me.

Sigh.

On to another topic...

I was reading through the UM house paper The Bulletin, and on the centre spread one of the banks had a quarter-page ad touring its ability to handle early retirement packages, and I’m thinking, oh, when did UM offer an early retirement package, at least, like, recently?

Alas for our front page, there’s no early retirement package being offered at the U, it was just a standard ad.

Moving on...

I’ve been to two Blue Bombers games this year, and the beer cup snake didn’t affect me personally. But, I’m one of those stodgy, grumpy, old, humourless curmudgeons who detests anyone’s having fun. I also go to football games to watch football games.

Starting with those people seated in the middle of the row who are motionless during a typical 17-minute TV time out, and as soon as the teams move to the line of scrimmage, get up and start shuffling down the row towards the aisle.

But two specific incidents.....there’s a guy with a huge Tiger-Cats flag, fine, he’s having a good time, he’s cheering for the visitor, but this guy holds it up and waves it during the (bad word) play. So every time he does that, I lost my view of two-thirds of the field from the 30 through the near end zone. And then there were the five guys in bare tops and blue body paint, who were apparently trying to drink their weight in beer. And the one guy had some sign that he thought would get him on TSN, and every time he stood up and waved it during the play, I and countless umpteen others in my section lost our sight of anything going on from the 45 into the near end zone.

Seriously, no ushers anywhere in sight; if we call that help number on our cells that Doug Brown touts on the jumbotron, will security come and take away their signs and flags and crazy-glue or velcro these people into the seats so we can watch the (really bad word) game?!?!?!

Harumph.

I keep listening out of one corner of my eye to the declared candidates for city council, so far including three incumbent school trustees.

The days are gone that you could hold more than one office — up until the 2002 election, there were at least three councillor/trustees, all in rural Manitoba — and gone are the days you can run for more than one office.

They include Cindy Gilroy-Price in Winnipeg School Division, and two from River East Transcona, Rod Giesbrecht and Brian Olynik. Giesbrecht is the maverick whom I was recently surprised to see is an N-Dipper, and he likes to stir things up, push buttons, and get himself into (vulgar expression for hot water), the type of rare trustee who makes a reporter’s job more interesting.

Anyway, the department of education tells me that they must resign their school board seats before city election officials can accept their nomination papers in mid-September.

My attention span ends abruptly...

Yet another shout out to the daily postsecondary on-line news service Academica’s Top Ten, which operates out of LondonOnt: that’s where I first came across the item that led to my recent story on the Rhode Island researcher studying students’ sleep/wake times and the ideal time(s) to start classes.

Last word goes to soccer...

I learned that I allegedly am not allowed to issue a yellow card in women’s soccer unless a player swears at me, no matter how much grief a player gives me.

I was doing a match in which there were more yapping and chirping than any other adult match so far this season... every offside, every alleged offside I didn’t call, every ball-to-hand call I made, it just basically never stopped.

So Team A is attacking, player takes the ball to the edge of the penalty area, hammers it directly at a Team B defender’s breasts from about three yards away. The Team B defender protects her breasts by bending her elbows, covering her chest with her forearms, squeezing her hands into fists and curling her hands inward....whereupon the ball struck her forearms. The attacker from Team A starts hollering "Handball! Handball! That’s in the box!" and I reply that it’s ball to hand, she was protecting herself, not playing hand to ball, play on, whereupon some guy in the stands starts screaming "Handball!" and the attacker keeps hollering at me that it was an obvious handball.

The ball by then has skittered away to the side, and I stop play, tell the attacker I’ve heard enough, and she starts chirping again, and I told her she’s been warned, and she keeps up the chirping, and I card her for dissent. Whereupon she looks genuinely surprised, and says, but, but, but, I didn’t swear at you, how can you give me a yellow when I didn’t swear at you, but, but, but...

And all of you who think I blew the call, feel free to hit the comments button, and maybe astound us all by using your real name.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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